When I’m Old

    (Alternative, 2003)
™ and © Alternative Comics

OK, let’s see. This is an anthology about, um, people’s goals? Self-perceptions? Uh, surrealistic journeys?

Whatever. Maybe this volume seems a little disjointed, because, well, it’s a little disjointed. This graphic novel actually comprises Bell’s previous self-published works that span the last five years. As such, it lacks a cohesive theme, because it doesn’t appear that Bell conceived these stories with one in mind—and that’s fine.

The problem is, as with any short-story collection, some of the chapters are better than others. Or, more appropriately, less bad than others. Eschewing any attempt at making the book artistically attractive, Bell, instead, focuses solely on trying to tell artsy stories and meets with, on average, moderate success.

“Amy Was a Babysitter,” which leads off the collection, is actually a nicely told story about a girl who’s able to cash in on the failure of her life. And the lengthy, two-part “Just One Reason” is a Tarantino-inspired chronicle of a troubled girl and, later, a troubled adult. But everything else meanders about with little apparent meaning, desperately demanding insightful and provoking thought but getting only a puzzled look and head-scratching in return.

The two above-mentioned episodes prove Bell has the talent to tell good stories, but she fails to instill the desire to read them. When she’s old, perhaps she will have refined her craft.

— Jim Johnson

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